Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Silence of the Braised Lamb's Neck

I had a lunch date planned with a colleague today, but he rescheduled an hour before for a later date. This now bumps him down on the "G's Favorite Pilot List" which stands as thus:

1. Captain Blue Eyes (no one is going to take away his number one spot. Just not going to happen.)
2. Dougie Doug
3. Mister Jim
4. Tommy P
5. Cantabene (Because he left us, other wise he'd be above Tommy.)
6. Duane (Yeah, that's right Duane. You just got kicked to the bottom!)

He doesn't care. Trust me.

So with time on my hands I went to the gym for 20 minutes of intense elliptical, 20 minutes weights, 10 minutes treadmill. Felt pretty good! From there I hopped over to Sprouts to figure out what I wanted to create for dinner. On special? Lamb necks for $2.99 a pound.

Well there you go.

Figuring that it would be similar to a shank, I decided to get a few key ingredients and head home.
Lamb necks, flour, garlic salt, black pepper, lemon, onion, tomatoes, white onion, butter, olive oil, potato (I actually decided on couscous instead, but the photo was already taken.)  
I could have added fresh rosemary from the garden, but decided against it this time. 

First step, get the necks dredged in the flour and spice mixture. 
While you are coating these, put one tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a good pot. You want the heat high enough to crisp the lamb but not so high to create a smoke bomb. 
For me? It's the range at 7.
Lamb has a lot of fat, especially this cut, but you need to crisp up the exterior and eventually saute the onions and tomatoes. You may remove the fat later. 
Once the lamb is coated, put it in the pot. This applies to shanks as well.
It's not rocket science. 
Sorry for the blurry photo, but I needed to be quick at this point. 
You need to get the onions and tomatoes chopped and ready to go in the pan once you remove the lamb. 
 Now you need to remove the lamb to another plate. Place the chopped onion in the pot and lower the heat. Toss in the tomatoes once the heat is reduced and you're at a low, low simmer. 
BE CAREFUL OF GREASE! Too much and you need to remove it from the pot. 
You can see it's slightly smoky. 
Now, I used fresh tomatoes but it's completely acceptable to use diced canned tomatoes. Just make sure they aren't seasoned or have something weird like jalapenos in the can. 
Fresh is best!

There will be people who disagree with me, but I think a good, long braise should include wine. 
Just a cupful of a non-expensive but a trusty tasting Cab Sav. 
Today I used a 2012 BV which is more than adequate with which to cook. 

One you pour in the wine and add tomatoes to the onions, it should look like this:

Sorry it's upside down, but you can figure it out. You're smart. 
Note that we are on absolute low, simmer. Here's when you add the lamb back. 

 If you wanted to add a starch like potato, do it here. Just place them quartered around the meat. 
I'm opting for couscous so that won't be until the final five minutes of cookery.

Oh, maybe I'll have a glass myself while we wait. 

Because now you just LEAVE IT ALONE! Let it simmer for two hours or so. When the meat falls off the bone, it's done. This method can be applied to any cut that is more bone-in than flat cut. In fact, you could probably braise pretty much everything.

Now I know what's your going to ask... can I do this in a crock pot or oven? 
The answer is yes. 
But you're going to need to sear the meat in a pan anyway. So unless the pan is also oven-proof, don't make a bigger mess in your kitchen than you need to. And crock pot cooking is better for a lamb stew than a bone-in cut. Just my POV. 

Okay, it's been an hour and a half, let's take a look.

 The meat is pretty soft on the bone, so I'm going to flip it and keep waiting.
Now the other side will soak in the yummy goodness of onion, garlic, tomato and wine. 

Lamb is good. It's described as "gamey" but I don't really know what that means. I lived in New Zealand for a while and ate it rather frequently. 
Fun fact: There are seven sheep for every person in New Zealand.

But I prefer lamb over beef. And I don't dig pig. Unless it's bacon.

Huh. Apparently "Wine Wednesday" is trending on Twitter. 
I suppose another few sips are therefore sanctioned by my Twitter following. 
Oh yes, I'm big on Twitter. 
Like, 45 whole followers!
More than my very silent three readers here. 
(cough cough)

Time to roast the Brussels sprouts.
I like to keep it simple with sea salt and white truffle oil. They get nice and crispy. 
Roast for 15 minutes MAX at 350 degrees F.

When the BSprouts are nearly done, I'll remove the lamb from the pot to rest and put in the couscous. 
Five minutes covered, turn off the heat. That's it. 

Try not to get the couscous all over the stove like I did.

Uh, where did the wine go?

Let's take a look at the final product.


Next time I would try grilling to get more crispy bits and remove more fat.

Here's a trick for the leftover sauce. Strain it, refrigerate, remove the fat and use for a base for the next meal.

Bon appetite!

See what happens when a Pilot stands me up for lunch?

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